WA election minus five days (Labor minus eight seats)

The Poll Bludger’s WA election guide has been reupholstered with predictions, campaign updates and a Legislative Council page. The upshot of the first of these is that I’m tipping Labor to emerge one by-election defeat from oblivion, with 30 seats out of 59. Predicted Liberal gains are Kingsley, Darling Range, Bunbury, Collie-Preston, Ocean Reef, Riverton, North West and Swan Hills, with no corresponding losses (such as Albany or Geraldton). Labor’s victory would thus depend on Jandakot, beneficiary of the Mandurah rail line and Fiona Stanley Hospital, and Joondalup, where a 4.4 per cent margin looks a bridge too far against a sitting member, despite talk of the northern suburbs as “tiger country”. However, it should be noted that further losses in Forrestfield, Southern River and Mount Lawley are not out of the question (the latter was a target of Labor’s campaign launch promise to build a rail line to Ellenbrook, reportedly pre-empting an announcement from the Liberals); that Morley turned up a surprise poll result on the weekend; and that Kimberley can be very unpredictable. I’m tipping the Liberals to lose Moore and Blackwood-Stirling to the Nationals, if indeed the latter can be said to be a Liberal rather than a Nationals seat; Janet Woollard to retain Alfred Cove, though not with great confidence; and Bill Marmion to recover Nedlands from Liberal-turned-independent member Sue Walker. That leaves the Liberals with 23 seats, the Nationals with four and two independents.

The upper house looms as a potential bonanza for the heretofore unrepresented religious parties: my guess is two seats for Family First, 15 for Labor, 14 for Liberal, two for the Nationals and three for the Greens. I expect Liberal-turned-Family First member Anthony Fels to win a seat in Agricultural along with two Liberal, two Labor and one Nationals, although Fels’ place could be taken by Mac Forsyth of the Christian Democratic Party if One Nation falls hard enough. I’m also tipping former Liberal deputy leader Dan Sullivan to win a seat in South West, joining two Labor, two Liberal and one Greens member, although the picture here is complicated – it could be right four, left two rather than three-all, and the Greens, Family First and Nationals are all in the picture. My tip in Mining and Pastoral is three Labor, two Liberal and one Nationals, though Labor’s third seat could go to the Greens and there could be a third Liberal instead of a National. In the metro area, I’m tipping three Labor, two Liberal and one Greens in East Metropolitan (it’s not impossible the latter seat could go to the CDP); three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens in North Metropolitan; and three-all in South Metropolitan.

Here are some of the electorate-level campaign updates from the election guide:

Collie-Preston (Labor 0.9%): Early in the campaign, Grahame Armstrong of the Sunday Times reported that Steve Thomas had “spoken in favour” of mineral sands miner Cable Sands while renting a house from them for $30 a week, which Thomas argued was all it was worth. Paul Murray of The West Australian claimed Labor had planted the story with Armstrong, a one-time press secretary to Geoff Gallop, whom he accused of running it even after it had been “factually destroyed by a letter from the company supplied to the newspaper before publication”.

Riverton (Labor 2.1%): The West Australian reported on Saturday that Labor was making a “last-ditch attempt” to hold the seat by promising the Leach Highway truck ban promised in 2005 would be fully operational by the end of the year. At present the government has implemented only the “stage” of the ban, targeting trucks longer than 19 metres. Riverton has been described during the campaign by party sources as “of concern” to Labor, and “in play”.

Bunbury (Labor 0.9%) and Albany (Liberal 2.3%): The Liberals have targeted two marginals in one hit with their promise to spend $225 million building a natural gas pipeline linking Bunbury and Albany.

And here’s me in Friday’s Crikey. An important point missing from the article below is that the Buswell website was developed by Labor while he was still leader – their error was in failing to recognise that the attack looked disproportionate after he’d quit.

With so much ammunition available to both sides, it comes as no surprise to find the WA election campaign dominated by negative advertising. Liberal mailouts have depicted Alan Carpenter projecting Brian Burke’s shadow onto a wall, while the six radio ads on the party’s website feature one Whingeing Wendy after another (in an interesting inversion of the situation in the party room, two-thirds of the voices are female).

For a party caught on the hop by an early election after a term consumed by leadership turmoil, such tactics might have been an operational necessity. The positive side of the Liberal campaign has won few admirers: policy announcements have been either re-heated or half-baked, with this week’s showpiece tax cut package criticised as both too modest and lacking in detail. The one television ad promoting Colin Barnett’s leadership qualities is either a conscious attempt to project an image of bland competence, or it indicates an even greater personality deficit than first feared. The party’s newer ad is more consistent with the tenor of the campaign, inviting viewers to spend a silent 30 seconds trying to think of “three good things Alan Carpenter’s Labor has done in eight years of boom”.

However, it’s been Labor’s tactics that have emerged as an election issue as the race enters the home stretch. On Wednesday the party launched an online dirt sheet called TruthAboutTroy.com, focusing on the colourful life and times of former leader and current Shadow Treasurer Troy Buswell. This was hardly the first time a made-to-order website had been used to attack political opponents, or even enemies within (most memorably in the case of the anti-Ted Baillieu website that was traced to Victorian Liberal Party headquarters). A Liberal-authorised federal election site called unionbosses.net continues to greet visitors with tales of “union thuggery”, “dirty tricks” and “Labor’s union links”, along with audio of former ALP member Dean Mighell employing intemperate language while addressing ETU members.

Part of the problem with Labor’s intensely personal attack on Buswell was that it arrived as concern over the campaign’s increasingly negative tone was ready to crystallise. It took only a short sharp talk radio backlash for Alan Carpenter to order that the site be pulled, with state secretary and safe seat candidate Bill Johnston sent out to face the music from a hostile Russell Woolf on ABC Radio. It was a different story earlier on in the campaign, when Labor took advantage of the Liberals’ unpreparedness to saturate Olympics schedules with ads promoting the government’s past achievements and future plans. With the website episode threatening to reinforce perceptions of arrogance and cynicism, it might be time for Labor to dust off its positive message in the final week of the campaign, shop-worn though it may be.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

449 comments on “WA election minus five days (Labor minus eight seats)”

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  1. I can report there has been little activity at UWA. No real signs that an election is coming up, except for rather disengaged banter. Oh, and the presence of Christian Porter around the law buildings…seems to be on his phone constantly.

    Interesting liberal flyer today which asks the usual thing about can you think of 3 good things Carpenter has done or something like that. When opened, there is a large blank, white space, at the bottom saying “don’t worry, we couldn’t think of anything either”. No labor advertising yet!

  2. i heard Porter is still lecturing at UWA out of ego. True?

    If that is indeed correct, isn’t that a breach of his terms of employment which prevents a member of parliament from having a second job ?

  3. Nothing stopping a member of parliament having a second job or business. Bill Johnston will presumably still be director of the labor party the day after the election presumably.

  4. Bill Johnston will presumably still be director of the labor party the day after the election presumably.

    Nope, he steps down as State Secretary if he wins Cannington 🙂

  5. heh well regardless, didn’t some Lib guy over east go overseas consulting during his term? I don’t think theres anything stopping you (well, other than the obvious of actually wanting to do a good job)

  6. “I heard Porter is still lecturing at UWA out of ego. True?”

    Hmmm…how is anyone meant to judge or know this? He is a new pollie, but I don’t think he is running around telling people he lectures out of ego. He has been my lecturer/tutor for a while and is always easy to approach, understands not all students are full time silver spooners and I have picked up that his legal mind doesn’t really match with some of the Liberal Law&Order policies.

  7. Hmm, Ripper has found a Black Hole in the Liberal costings .

    The West Australian government and opposition are at loggerheads over what Treasurer Eric Ripper says is a $243 million “black hole” in the costings of the Liberals’ election promises.

    After opposition treasury spokesman Troy Buswell said a private firm had costed the party’s policies at just over $1.8 billion, Treasurer Eric Ripper claimed the opposition had failed to factor in almost $250 million in interest and depreciation.

    He pointed to Treasury estimates which put the Liberal commitments at a total $2.048 million.

    But Mr Buswell said the opposition had submitted its “direct” costings of $1.805 billion to Treasury to assess, which included the addition of indirect costings, such as interest and depreciation.

    Mr Ripper said the amounts should have been included in the Liberals’ official financial statement.

    “There is a black hole in the costings, they should have known to include interest and depreciation,” Mr Ripper said.

    “I wrote to them and told them to include interest and depreciation in their costings.

    “Treasury wasn’t asked to cost each individual item.

    “It was only asked to add up the shopping list and ask what impact it would have on the overall financial aggregates.

    “It’s a case of garbage in, garbage out.”


  8. all this week the price on the libs has not moved from $3.50. I am looking at this election purely as a punter, and it is hard to imagine that if the libs thought they could win they wouldn’t have crunched the price by now, they are I imagine privy to all sorts of private polling?

  9. True, I can see how people get the impression he has a bit of a ego…probably should have moderated my comment before, a bit harsh. When I first met him at start of last year, not knowing about his family Lib connections, I pegged him as a Labor man…showed me how well I can judge people’s affiliations!

    As an aside, does anyone know what that recruitment website Peter Kennedy mentioned in his Campaign Diary was? The one for all the displaced party hacks.

  10. I’m sure he is fulfilling a comitment because it is the right thing to do for his students’ sake.

    I’m equally sure that no legal mind on either side of politics would in its non political moments endorse much of the crass and inane populism which passes for law and order policy.

  11. Channel 9 already said, it is actually in the costings, Ripper was just too stupid to see evidently.

    And it was Channel 9 and it’s Political Reporter Nadia Mitsopolous who caught out Barnett in 2005 🙂

  12. Lots of people I talk to agree that RPH is past it – but they still don’t want to see it closed. Especially they don’t like the idea of losing the emergency ward nearest them.

    I’m not sure of the nearest hospital south of RPH, but I’m in the fortunate position of living north west of RPH, near Oxford street, so I’m close to Charles Gairdner, and from the stories I’ve heard would be pretty creeped out if I was taken to RPH. It seems strange that there would be too many people concerned about losing RPH, given that it would be locked in traffic for most of the day.

  13. I’m not sure of the nearest hospital south of RPH

    I believe it would be either Charlies, or most likely Fremantle Hospital. It should be noted that the North Block was commenced in 1974, but lay idle right through the Charlie Court/Ray O’Connor period of Government, and it was finally completed during the First Term of the Burke Government.

  14. Average Joe

    “$3.50 has stayed pretty consistant – the bookies don’t give out those kind of odds out of charity”

    no , but they’re laying a book on a very close 2 horse race & may be trying to get a bit of balance into it

  15. true – but you would think if ANY inside polling had shown the libs getting up you’d have seen a bit of money going there way, and apparantly the highest bet so far has been like 200 bucks.

  16. true – but you would think if ANY inside polling had shown the libs getting up you’d have seen a bit of money going there way, and apparantly the highest bet so far has been like 200 bucks.

    And there has been no money whatsoever laid on a Liberal Victory since the release of the Internal Labor Polling, which must say something.

  17. The closest hospital to RPH is Sir Charles Gardiners Hospital and Hollywood Private Hospital

    SCGH is a major trauma centre and about to get a $500m upgrade

    it is utterly stupid having two major tertairy hospitals 3-4km apart from each other.

    The libs RPH policy is based on sentimental stupidity of the highest proportions. even the AMA agrees with downgrading RPH

  18. The libs RPH policy is based on sentimental stupidity of the highest proportions. even the AMA agrees with downgrading RPH

    And some othe comments on Perth Now, you’d think that Labor are drowning babies by downgrading RPH.

  19. I happen to agree – it is a massive waste having two major tertiary hospitals within minutes of each other and Charlies is probably the better option.
    As for pollies having second jobs – does Jackie Kelly doing Dancing on Ice count? 😉
    I would think the nearest hospital south of RPH (with an ED) would be either Freo or SJG – Murdoch – depending on where you were (and if you wanted to try the private option). Presumably that will eventually be replaced by FSH.

  20. Sorry – to clarify – it will be replaced by FSH in the sense that you will have a public tertiary care alternative to SJG – Murdoch in the same location (adjacent actually).

  21. Tonight’s PM.

    With only two days left before the West Australian election, both major parties are desperately trying to claim underdog status. The Liberal leader has criticised Labor’s release of polling which purports to show that it may lose. The Liberals’ Colin Barnett says he doesn’t believe the numbers. But he does say that his own party’s polling indicates that more seats are in play than many people expect.


  22. I cannot believe that Colin Barnett is privy to Internal Liberal polling, unless they are trying to hide something more dire than Labor’s.

    This was Mr Barnett on ABC Radio this morning, when he revealed a little about the Liberal Party’s own results.

    COLIN BARNETT: That’s the third time in this election campaign that Labor’s secretly released polling and three times in four weeks.

    INTERVIEWER: Does it give you heart? Or do you think it’s trickery?

    COLIN BARNETT: No, look its trickery and the Labor Party all they do is talk about themselves. I mean, it is pathetic. I am not talking about polling. I don’t even know our polling. I am just getting on about the issues.

    INTERVIEWER: Do you genuinely not know you’re internal polling?

    COLIN BARNETT: I don’t. I’ve been briefed on some parts of it but…

    INTERVIEWER: Is it good?

    COLIN BARNETT: …I do not know the day to day polling. It shows there’s a contest on. It shows that more seats are in contest and play than others thought.


  23. Normally the Lib/Lab candidate doesn’t get access to the polling

    But you would expect Barnett being leader would be privy to such polling if they are involved in the day to day running of the campaign.

  24. Perhaps Porter still lectures at UWA because he is a good guy who doesn’t want to the let the faculty down given the abrupt nature of his election? Sometimes people’s cynicism is quite depressing.

  25. Mount Lawley mail:
    1 x direct letter from local lib with how to vote card ‘tear off’
    Nothing from Lab.

    Libs are spending a fortune in the seat.

  26. Mailbox in Darling Range today:-

    One item from the Libs. Personally addressed letter from Tony Simpson, promising better local health care, more police resources and locking up minor dope offenders. Enclosed was a very glossy and expensive A3 sheet with a very small photo of Colin Barnett on the front and lots of policies to please the 6PR demographic. Particularly emphasises “Fully Costed, Fully Budgeted” in all policy areas.

  27. One item from the Libs. Personally addressed letter from Tony Simpson, promising better local health care, more police resources and locking up minor dope offenders. Enclosed was a very glossy and expensive A3 sheet with a very small photo of Colin Barnett on the front and lots of policies to please the 6PR demographic. Particularly emphasises “Fully Costed, Fully Budgeted” in all policy areas.

    That got delivered to Swan Hills last week, with a letter from Frank Alban.

  28. Got some mail from Libs, Labor, and an independant this week in Scarborough. Looks like a last-ditch effort from everybody, good to see they’re all trying. Hope the winner keeps it up. No shortage of contact details for everybody there. Hate to have their phone bills.

  29. Ch 10 just ran the ALP “The Liberal Party Can’t Run Themselves, They Can’t Run WA” ad twice in the last ad break during Ten Late News/Sports Tonight. saw that quite a bit tonight on Ch 10 and 9

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